Monday, February 4, 2008

Memphis vs Milwaukee - 2.5.08

Memphis seemed to still be suffering from shellshock against Utah from the news that Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, the draft rights to Marc Gasol and two #1 draft picks. The Milwaukee game should actually witness the start of the era after Gasol when Jason Collins, Javaris and Kwame actually suit up in a game for the Grizzlies. Not that anyone should expect much contribution from these three. The only player that adds anything to the immediate lineup will be Javaris as he should instantly become the backup to Kyle Lowry moving JCN back to his more natural SG position. Collins and Brown will both see action backing up Darko but it is doubtful that either will play significant minutes. That leaves the scoring burden on Miller and Gay who struggled against Utah in that role. Mike Miller especially will miss seeing open shots as team's doubled down on Gasol. This is a great opportunity for Hakim Warrick to step up and show he belongs in the future plans for the Grizzlies.

Milwaukee has struggled this year. Between fighting with the Chinese government about letting Yi Jianlian play for the Bucks, to dealing with life without Michael Redd to just trying to mature as a team with so many young players in the mix, it has been a learning experience for Milwaukee. While most of the attention directed at Milwaukee has to do with the drafting of Yi and his performance the development of Andrew Bogut has been the best story on the team this season. Charlie Villanueva on the other hand has taken a severe step backwards in his development and may be available in a trade soon. Bobby Simmons' return from two years of injuries offers more promise for the Bucks future.

Point Guards: Kyle Lowry vs Mo Williams
Many people expected Memphis to make a run at Mo Williams in free agency last summer but the drafting of Michael Conley turned the Grizzlies attention toward a big and eventually to Darko. Mo returned to Milwaukee and has played decently but hasn't been the playmaker many people expected this season. Part of that has to do with the lack of people to make plays of course. Kyle Lowry has continued to log heavy minutes since Conley's injury and has produced but his role on the team is in question now with another rookie PG on the roster. The disturbing aspects of Lowry's game have been his turnovers and poor shooting.
Advantage: Milwaukee

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Royal Ivey

Royal Ivey has been filling in for Redd this season and definately hasn't got the shooting touch that Redd has. Shooting only 41% as a starter and only 28% from the arc, Ivey has taken a team's strength and made it a weakness. Navarro's shooting has been off lately as his minutes have increased and his responsibilities broadened. In the last 5 games Navarro has shot a tepid 35% from the field and 27% from the arc. Navarro should be playing the majority of minutes at SG now but one has to wonder how he will perform now that his best friend is gone. Not having to be the playmaker anymore should free up Navarro to concentrate solely on the 2 position which should help him snap out of his funk.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Mike Miller vs Bobby Simmons

Bobby Simmons is coming back after two frustrating seasons of injuries including missing the entire 2005-06 season after signing a big free agent contract to leave LA for Milwaukee. Before the injuries Bobby was finally living up to the potential he exhibited his last season in LA. Simmons has been thrust back into the starting lineup wiht the injury to Desmond Mason. Mike is the most experienced Grizz player with the team right now. He has played barely over 5 full seasons with the team. Mike has a high basketball IQ and a deadly eye but a weak stomach for taking big shots. This is a rare matchup where Mike won't be a step slower than his opponent however so his shooting in the first three quarters should be enough to win the personal battle.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Yi Jianlian

Yi is the 2nd rookie starting in this game. That is extremely rare in the NBA. Yi has been a lot better than his detractors expected but by no means has he been tearing up the league. Grizz fans may remember Rudy's introduction to Yi in the summer league with his posterizing dunk. Rudy is playing like the 2nd best player from last year's draft class behind Brandon Roy and he isn't far behind. Rudy has been given the keys to the team and is being asked to take over like Roy has in Portland after Zack Randolph was traded. How Rudy responds to the challenge will go a long way in determining if Memphis made a bad deal or not.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Andrew Bogut

Darko has put together back to back double-doubles in points and rebounds in the last two games for the 1t time in his career. Andrew Bogut has 21 double-doubles this season. Bogut was drafted #1 the year after Darko went #2 but Bogut is still a year older than Darko because of his time in college. While neither player has really lived up to their high draft positions Bogut at least has become a competitant NBA starter averaging 13.5 ppg and 9 rebounds. Darko's defense has been improving (7 blocks in the last two games) as has his shooting. Hopefully Darko is fully recovered from the sprained thumb that plagued him early in the season. Darko may be playing well but it is hard to forget the spanking Bogut put on the Grizzlies earlier this season.
Advantage: Milwaukee

Benches: Memphis vs Milwaukee

Are Michael Redd or Desmond Mason going to play in this game? Those questions will affect the game's outcome more than the benches. Milwaukee's bench is led by Charlie Bell and Charlie Villanueva right now. Has Charlie Villanueva woken up from his season long funk? Charlie V's up and down performances have been disappointing for the Bucks. Who knows what Memphis' bench will be like? Hakim Warrick is looked at to provide points but what impact with Jason Collins, Kwame Brown and Javaris Crittenton have? Personally I hope to see Crittenton have a good game as that will ease a lot of the pressure on the Grizzlies about the trade.
Advantage: Milwaukee

UPDATE: According to Graham Kendrick, Mike Conley practiced on Monday and should be available for the game against Milwaukee. This makes it official, the Grizzlies have more point guards with fewer than 50 games of playing experience than any team in NBA history!

Alternative Perspectives:
Bucks Blog
MKE Bucks Draft

BallHype: hype it up!


the serbian swatter said...

I can't wait to see Darko put up his third consecutive double-double tomorrow. He got one the last time the Grizz faced the Bucks.

NancyW said...

Thank goodness Conley will be back, and I'm looking forward to seeing what impact our new guys will make.

The Grizzlies actually have a chance tonight in the first game of the Pau-less era.

My prediction:
Grizzlies 105 Bucks 101